What’s in Your Conference Bag? – Clark Quinn

Welcome to a TWIST Blog Series – What’s in Your Conference Bag? This series explores the various ways people prepare for and get more out of a conference. Each week we’ll feature a new Learning and Development Professional who will answer a series of questions and share his or her personal tips for maximizing a conference experience.

Quinn_ClarkThis week’s guest is Clark Quinn, Executive Director at Quinnovation, author of Designing mLearning: Tapping Into the Mobile Revolution for Organizational Performance, and Guild Master Award recipient.

What you do: I help organizations “work smarter”; I assist them to systematically use technology in ways that are aligned with what’s known about how we think, work, and learn, individually and together.

Where you do what you do: My base of operations is in Walnut Creek, California, but Quinnovation is an international organization that works with clients spanning the globe.

Something most people don’t know about you: I was on, and coached, the surf team in college.

One word that describes why you attend conferences: Connecting

Besides the conference-provided materials, what types of things do you carry in your conference bag?
In my bag you’ll pretty much always find my iPad, a stylus, a pen, snacks, biz cards, flash drive, and earphones. (And I strongly suggest sorting through the conference materials immediately, only retaining those that are relevant or interesting.)

What types of things do you do BEFORE a conference to plan and get more out of the experience?
I submit proposals to present and create the accepted presentations; make plans who, when, and where to meet; figure out what topics I’m currently interested in; and figure out what sessions to attend.

What about AFTER a conference? What do you do to keep the learning going after the conference ends?
I post my conference reflections, and send followup messages to those whose business cards I collected. I also look for session and event summaries (ideally they’ve been curated). I also follow up on any ToDos I promised.

What apps/tools/resources help you get the most out of a conference? (It doesn’t have to be technology)
I use OmniGraffle (iPad app)to diagram new ideas that have been sparked and to mindmap keynotes, and WordPress to post the keynotes. I may use Notes or NoteSuite (iPad app) to capture thoughts or ideas. I use Reminders for any ToDos I promise (if it doesn’t get into the device, we never had the conversation). I use iCal to schedule my activities so I can have an alert remind me where I need to be when. I use Twitter to throw out interesting ideas I hear in sessions and see what others are saying. And I use Mail to keep in touch while I’m at the event. I use my pen to make notes on the business cards I collect about what prompted the exchange. I use Google to look up whatever’s mentioned that I don’t know about, or about the presenter or their company, and keep up on what’s happening in the outside world. Snacks, caffeine, and water help me manage my energy and health.

Do you prefer to use a paper program guide for a conference or a dedicated conference app? Why?
I prefer an app; conf guides get heavy, and I don’t need any extra weight on the shoulders! Also, a well-designed app will let me schedule my events, synced across devices, browse information on the presenter, choose alternatives when my first choice turns out to be not interesting (or has no more room left!).

When traveling to and from a conference, how do you pass the time?
Capturing thoughts (writing or diagramming), staying in touch (reading the news, email, social media), and some relaxation (a movie or novel).

Picture1What’s the most important thing you look to take away from a conference experience?
I’m currently interested in strategy, culture, and infrastructure. I think these are the foundations upon which organizations will succeed in their efforts.

What topics are you most interested in right now?
I’m passionate about curation and it’s potential as a tool for learning. I’m also very interested in the new technologies that expand the definition of “mobile” and how they can be used for learning.

You’ve also been a speaker at conferences – What was it that first motivated you to speak at a conference?
The chance to share ideas (and the free registration :).

If you could give one piece of advice to someone attending a conference for the first time, what would it be?
Be forthright with your questions. Don’t hang back or be shy, this time is too valuable: get in there and talk to the speakers, vendors, and the people you end up standing or sitting next to. The best benefit of F2F events is the chance to interact with others.

If you were to give a new attendee one task to complete that would define conference success, what would it be?
Prepare an action plan after the event. Doing that best means wrapping the time you are at the event; preparing beforehand and reflecting afterward. Beforehand, figure out which questions need to be answered, what vendor categories you need to talk to, what sessions look to have the answers, and who you want to make sure you hear. Then follow up afterward: make plans on the way home about what you’ll share with your co-workers/boss and what steps you will take.

Anything else you’d like to share?
I also think people should contemplate presenting, and at least know what makes a good session description. I wrote an article with some tips.

Interested in being a guest for a future “What’s in Your Conference Bag post? Please reach out to David Kelly for details.

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